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NEWS from the Office of the New York State Comptroller
Contact: Press Office 518-474-4015

DiNapoli Report Highlights MTA's Significant Needs

Calls on MTA to Explain Priorities and What Is Planned in Next Capital Program

February 1, 2024

A report released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli examines the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) latest 20-Year Needs Assessment, reviews the depth of work needed to upgrade New York’s regional transit systems and highlights the urgent need for the MTA to state its priorities and funding plans.

“The list of repairs and upgrades needed in our regional transit systems can seem endless, but funds are limited. As the MTA prepares its next capital plan and sets priorities for work, it should remain focused on riders’ experience by improving safety, reliability and frequency of service,” DiNapoli said. “Above all, it needs to be transparent. Riders and policymakers need to know what these capital projects mean for them, the progress that will be made in repairing the system, how much they’re going to cost and how the MTA is going to pay for them.”

The MTA’s 20-Year Needs Assessment is intended to provide a comprehensive view of the system’s capital needs. It helps inform the allocation of funds in the MTA’s five-year capital program, which has funding constraints. In its October 2023 Needs Assessment (2025-2044) Report, the MTA's first since 2013, it departed from prior practice by not including projected costs of the needs it listed. The absence of costs makes it difficult to determine how much investment is needed when capital funds are limited.

DiNapoli’s office estimates repair needs from 2025 through 2029, the period covering the MTA’s next capital program to be released later this year, will cost at least $43 billion, not including expansion and new priorities to address accessibility, resiliency, and sustainability. This estimate was based on the MTA’s 2013 cost data, adjusted for inflation.

Despite the lack of cost estimates, the Needs Assessment provided greater detail on the authority’s capital repair needs, making it clear that some areas of the transit system should get priority attention to benefit riders and accelerate ridership growth, which is urgently needed to restore the MTA’s operating revenue.


One of the most important priorities for improving subway service is the MTA’s ongoing modernization of signals. Although delays caused by New York City Transit’s outdated signal system have declined, signals still caused 25% of major incidents that delayed trains in 2022 and 2023. The large majority (69%) of signals still use the century-old fixed block system, while 7% have been updated and 24% are either under construction or to be awarded contracts for modernization this year.

Subway cars are aging and increasingly prone to break downs. The fleet’s average age was 26 years in 2022, up from 20 years in 2013. Replacing the oldest cars, which are over 40 years old and break down at nearly three times the average rate, could improve service reliability, DiNapoli’s report notes. Contractor problems and pandemic-related delays have pushed their replacement to 2025. It is concerning that some of the replacement cars have arrived with equipment problems.

Overall, MTA needs to buy over 3,900 subway cars in the next 20 years, which DiNapoli’s office estimates could cost nearly $15 billion.

Delays caused by track problems increased to 24,440 in 2023, after two years of declines. In 2022, track problems caused 19% of major incidents that delayed 50 or more trains.

The MTA also needs to invest in subway yards and repair shops where significant repairs are needed to building structures. The 2013 Needs Assessment estimated $1.6 billion (inflation adjusted) was needed for this work. As of Dec. 2023, only $315 million in shop and yard projects were completed with another $187 million committed.

Long Island Rail Road 

The MTA has spent $822 million since 2013 at Penn Station, with most of that on the new widened concourse. Meanwhile, all of Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) platforms at Penn Station are in poor or marginal condition and have only received minimal capital funds in recent years.

LIRR’s replacement of its oldest cars with M9 cars has run into delays and performance issues may be associated with the fleet average age increasing from 12 years old in 2013 to 18 years old in 2022.

On the positive side, the introduction of new cars has improved LIRR’s average breakdown rate from every 151,950 miles in Oct. 2019 to every 193,968 miles in Oct. 2023. The MTA’s plan to continue replacing its oldest cars and expand the LIRR fleet should support service increases made possible by the opening of service into Grand Central Madison.

Metro-North Railroad 

The latest Needs Assessment shows that Grand Central Terminal’s 110-year-old train shed beneath Park Avenue needs repairs to 100% of its structural supports, roof slab, HVAC and drainage system. It is one of MTA’s most pressing priorities for Metro-North, with the MTA estimating repair costs at $2.7 billion. Platforms at Grand Central also need attention, with 77% in poor or marginal condition. Additional work is needed to repair the Park Avenue viaduct leading into Grand Central.

Metro North also has an aging fleet with an average age of 19 years in 2023 up from 15 years in 2013. Over the next 20 years Metro North will need to replace more than half its fleet to keep its electric cars within their 40-year useful lifespan.

Although 39% of track is rated in poor or marginal condition, delays caused by track problems have declined by 79% from 1,700 in 2019 to 360 in 2023.

2025-2029 Capital Plan 

In Sept. 2024, the MTA will release its next five-year Capital Program. DiNapoli’s report calls on the MTA to explain to stakeholders in advance of its release what projects it plans to prioritize, how they will keep assets in good repair given its overwhelming list of needs and, above all, how the proposed projects will improve safety, service and reliability for riders.

Additionally, given the varying condition of its assets, the MTA has a responsibility to explain its short-term priorities, how that informs project selection and the target state for asset conditions upon project completion.

Finally, MTA’s decision to not include costs in its last Needs Assessment presents a challenge for its stakeholders that underscores the need for MTA to state as early as possible what level of funds it will need from outside sources to pay for its capital program and the growing cost of its important efforts to strengthen the system’s resilience and accessibility. Prior capital programs were delayed by as long as 18 months because funding details were not ironed out. With the urgent need to increase ridership, boost revenue and secure its future, the MTA cannot afford delays in upgrades and repairs that will improve the transit system.

A Review of Capital Needs at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority